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The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality

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Ronald Rolheiser makes sense of what is frequently a misunderstood word: spirituality. In posing the question "What is spirituality?" Father Rolheiser gets quickly to the heart of common difficulties with the subject, and shows through compelling anecdotes and personal examples how to channel that restlessness, that deep desire, into a healthy spirituality.
This book is for those searching to understand what Christian spirituality means and how to apply it to their own lives.Rolheiser explains the nonnegotiables--the importance of community worship, the imperatives surrounding social action, the centrality of the Incarnation, the sustenance of the spiritual life--and how spirituality necessarily impacts every aspect of human experience.At the core of this readable, deeply revealing book is an explanation of God and the Church in a world that more often than not doubts the credibility of both."

272 pages, Hardcover

First published July 20, 1999

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Ronald Rolheiser

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 191 reviews
73 reviews21 followers
August 19, 2014
When it's good, it's very very good, and when it's bad, it's horrid.

It's mostly good. :)
Profile Image for Cameron M.
59 reviews9 followers
February 15, 2018
I've got some mixed feelings about this book. A dear priest friend of mine gave this to me to read back in college several years back, and I lost track of it. Recently, I picked it up again when I was perusing through my books to grab another one to read.

There's good, and there's bad. Another review here mentioned that, "when it's good, it's very good. When it's bad, it's horrid." I think those words are true here in regards this book. When I'm leaping for joy after having finished a book because I not longer have to read that book, I don't consider that a wonderful thing. It's important that we reflect on the book itself and ask ourselves, "was I the intended audience for this writer?"I think it's only fair and just to review it according to the answer we have for that question.

I want to say that the author intended this to be read by anyone, but perhaps more beneficial to particular individuals in certain places on their "spiritual" journey. As a practicing and active Catholic who tries to immerse oneself in apologetics, philosophy, and theology, I didn't find this book particularly beneficial for myself.

It was not enthralling or exciting. It was rather boring to read, in my opinion. There was much redundancy and repetition, which made me slug along even slower. The last time I was this bored reading a book immersed in spirituality was the Confessions by St Augustine (whom I love dearly, don't get me wrong) and that book took me like 5 years to read.

I think part of the bore was that the author seemed to stretch awfully far to make connections and conclusions, such as sex being the primordial energy in the universe, calling God a mother, and the like. I also get bummed when I see a Catholic priest make incorrect references to to quotes (such as the classic quote attributed to St Francis).

I think the book would likely best suit someone of a secular walk who has some interest in the Christian thought of parts of spirituality. The author had many gems and one liners, one of which I liked: "It is not so much that we misunderstand what the incarnation means, it is more that we grasp only the smallest tip of the great iceberg. We miss its meaning by not seeing its immensity." (pg 75). Lines like this show up time and again throughout the read, and admittedly, kept me engaged just enough to plow through and try to find more.
Profile Image for David Clark.
72 reviews6 followers
June 15, 2012
This was a book recommended by a wise and thoughtful friend and it did not disappoint. I have used it for my morning devotionals and both the author's craft and content have been a rich source of delight and stimulation. I awarded this book five stars but a better measure might be the copious margin notes, underlining, and large number of colored reminder tags now peeking out from the text.

Rolheiser writes from a Roman Catholic point of view but is remarkably open handed. This is not to suggest the author does not advance a theological point of view. However, the author chooses to search for and occupy that ground common to all Christ followers. As a non-Roman Catholic, I found his critique of both Protestant and Catholic approaches to spiritual practice fair, open-handed, and quite helpful.

A particularly notable feature of this book is Rolheiser's emphasis upon an ecclesiology centered Spiritual Practice. While others have suggested we need religion rather than spirituality--perhaps a glib caveat spurred by the our current hyper-individualistic culture--Rolheiser's book clearly suggests this push to choose between spirituality and religion is unnecessary--heretical even.

A well written book, a book of practical help I will recommend to my students and friends, and a book of wisdom to which I shall return.
Profile Image for Gary Cleveland.
8 reviews19 followers
July 10, 2013
Finished reading it today.
One gem to share. "Spirituality is about what we do with the fire inside us....."
Profile Image for Ashley.
31 reviews2 followers
January 21, 2023
Such a providential time to read this book - perhaps the best spiritual book I’ve read since Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen (Spirit is alive and well on my silent retreat book selections!!) I loved and resonated with much of the content, but enjoyed the chapters on spirituality of justice & peacemaking and spirituality of sexuality the most. We all should live out our calling to be mystics!!
Profile Image for Rosemarie.
209 reviews28 followers
December 27, 2011
This book had some great insights. Rolheiser begins by defining Spirituality in very broad terms and showing how everyone - religious or not - HAS a Spiritual side. There is a very interesting part where he compares three women: Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and Janis Joplin, showing how they may seem very different, but it really all comes down to how they dealt with their Spirituality. This part comes at the beginning and really got me into the book.

He then focuses specifically on the components of a healthy Christian Spiritual life. He talks about the "non-negotiable" pillars of Christian Spirituality and makes some very good points as to why he considers them so.

There is also a wonderful part where he talks about how a person can be happy or unhappy in ANY state or stage in life. If you think you are unhappy because you don't have something - you're wrong. Lots of people who have it are very unhappy - and lots of people who don't are very happy. It's about surrendering to the Spirit - allowing it to descend and give you the grace to live happily with any life situation. This was one of my favorite parts of the book because the idea was new to me - I'd never heard anyone put it quite the way this author does.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Rolheiser is a very good writer. I had heard of him before but never had the chance to read any of his work. I had to read this book for a class, but now I'm just glad that I read it for myself, and would gladly read any of this other books. I'd recommend this one to anyone who would like a better understanding of what Spirituality is...and what it is not.
Profile Image for Nicole.
50 reviews23 followers
December 4, 2008
An intelligently written book about Jesus and Christianity. I like this book because it offers up Christianity in a positive light, not commercialized, no hint of any social conservatism/right of center politics, and most importantly no littering of fundamentalist views. The Holy Longing speaks about spirituality in regards to Christianity instead of 'religion,' which is why I gave this book a change and I'm glad that I did. There is no phony Christian agenda evident, just a book about discovering your OWN personal relatoinship with God.
24 reviews
July 29, 2010
Perhaps one of the best spiritual books ever written. This book really provides a persuasive argument for the human need for spirituality and a sound foundation for anyone who wants to practice an authentic Christian faith, especially the Catholic faith. It gave me a vocabulary and appreciation for the faith I have been practicing and challenged me to go deeper on several levels. Great and easy read that can transform you very quickly!
Profile Image for Matthew.
244 reviews2 followers
January 5, 2016
This is a great book to offer people who have lost their Christian way or are interested to Christianity. The author is a Roman Catholic priest and brings in the joy and fullness of faith of the Catholic faith in certain parts. His perspective of certain issues has really opened my eyes. I do find a stretch to some of his conclusions to Biblical readings but his stories paint a great picture and helped me relate to his points to Christianity.
Profile Image for Jan Petrozzi.
91 reviews
November 4, 2017
By far, this is one of the best books I have read. Rolheiser presents a look at spirituality in a way that, until now, was unfamiliar to me. I cannot think of anyone I know who would not benefit from reading this book. I want to send it to all of my friends. It is lovely. Received an assignment to read certain chapters each week for a theology class and I couldn’t help but to jump ahead and finish it way before it was due. Hated to put it down to attend to my other assignments.
40 reviews
November 13, 2022
A must read for someone that wants to deepen their faith!

Such an incredible dive into the spiritual life of Christians. Rolheiser takes principles taught at a pulpit and applies it to daily life in such a caring way. There are no pointing fingers, or looking down noses - its an exploration of the Christian faith in a pure and nonjudgmental form. He put to words experiences I have had that I never understood. There were elements that I do not agree with, but by no means does it discount the validity of his words.

Its more of a philosophy book than a bible study - I feel he could have rooted it in scripture more, but I also understand and respect his approach.
Profile Image for Paul Dubuc.
246 reviews9 followers
September 26, 2009
Though I found a some important things with which to disagree in this book, overall I found it a very compelling and enriching approach to Christian spirituality. Rolheiser's writing is very lucid and wise. He defines spirituality along the lines of things all people experience within themselves. It's "more about whether or not we can sleep at night, than about whether or not we go to church." It's what shapes our actions, what we do with our desire (eros), whether or not we can shape it in a creative, life-giving way; whether "the disciplines and habits we choose to live by ... lead to a greater integration or disintegration within our bodies, minds and souls, and ... in the way we are related to God, others and the cosmic world." "The opposite of being spiritual is to have no energy, is to have lost all zest for living..." Rolheiser says that, "Our soul is not something we have, it is more something we are. It is the very life pulse within us, that which makes us alive ... It is also the adhesive that holds us together, the principle of integration and individuation within us." I couldn't help but notice the similarity between this and the way Dallas Willard describes the soul in his book Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ.

I'm always a little annoyed when Christian writers on spirituality seem to apologize for their Christian point of view as Rolheiser seems to do on p. 41 when he says that, "God speaks in many and diverse ways and no one person or religion has a monopoly on the truth." This statement is fine with me on the face of it. There are plenty of things one can learn from other religions. But I wonder how far people who talk like this take this reasoning in practice. Does he think he has good reasons for being a Christian and not a Buddhist or Muslim? Would he suggest that adherents of other religions take a similarly relativistic view of their own faith? While it's all fine and humble not to think of one's religion as having a complete monopoly on the truth, I wouldn't care much to listen to anyone who didn't have at least enough confidence in their religion to believe that it's the hub of truth, if not the whole wheel. It may be difficult to place a high value on both the pursuit of truth and a loving acceptance of others who don't accept our view of it, but that's the line I see Jesus walking in the Gospels. The way in following him is a narrow one. Whether or not Rolheiser believes this, his book is very valuable for Christians who do. His nonnegotiable essentials of Christian Spirituality describe a very balanced and mature spirituality with Christ as the center and the incarnation of Christ in the lives of believers as the vehicle of his ministry in the world today.

Rolheiser helpfully applies Christian spirituality to several areas of life that are "key spiritualities within a spirituality. In these he illuminates how we can work out our spirituality in our relationship to the church, in the face of suffering and death, in doing justice and peacemaking, in our sexuality, and in caring for our own spiritual life. I found the chapters on suffering and death and sexuality to be especially helpful and insightful. There are some very good words in the chapter on justice and peacemaking, but I had a little bit of trouble with Rolheiser's faith in the transformation of systems to accomplish those aims. To me, all systems seem inherently flawed and limited. The transformation of systemic evil into good depends more on the health of the moral fiber of the community and the character of the individuals who make it up. It's easy to see examples systemic injustice. I don't think I've ever seen systemic justice. A system can't make us good. How can a system change the inherent problem that Rolheiser sees with abortion (p. 171) where "a whole culture ... has chosen to dissociate sex from marriage and procreation ... wherein sex is an extension of dating, abortion will always happen."?

In spite of minor reservations, I value Rolheiser's perspective on Christian spirituality very much. This is a book I will turn to again for refreshment and spiritual sustenance.
Profile Image for James.
32 reviews1 follower
April 29, 2019
“Spirituality is, ultimately about what we do with that desire...about what we do with the fire inside of us...how do we channel it, the disciplines and habits we chose to live by, will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration within our bodies, minds, souls...in the way we are related to God [and] others...”

Very Helpful.
Profile Image for Whitney Holley.
342 reviews9 followers
September 19, 2015
Beautifully written and thought out. I took my time reading this and found myself thinking about certain passages throughout my day. Rolheiser makes the case for combining religion and spirituality and how you can't have one without the other. He is able to challenge his reader in a loving way that makes you trust him and try to understand his point of view. I look forward to reading more from him and plan to come back to this book when I need to be reminded to look for peace within myself and my community of faith.
Profile Image for Joe Kimmell.
1 review
December 16, 2018
Overall I loved it. Being protestant I don't agree with all positions or ways of thinking about every subject, but that being said... WOW. I LOVED it. The opening on DESIRE and EROS and placing those in deeply important places in our Christ-following categories is HUGE. Your spirituality is what you do with your desire. So Good. The way he writes engages your doubt and your secularism and confronts them while inviting your whole humanity into the process. Really excellent. The chapter on the spirituality on sexuality is worth the price alone. Be discerning but please read this.
Profile Image for Linda.
164 reviews1 follower
September 13, 2013
As is frequently the case, this book came to me just at a time when I needed it the most. Father Rolheiser's loving, intelligent writings are the perfect antidote for the "crazy Christians" who seem to be the public face of faith in the US right now. His God is loving, intelligent, and expansive--I will return to this book many times when I need a "tune-up" from cynicism and reassurance that ignorance and intolerance are never a part of following Christ.
Profile Image for Jess.
6 reviews3 followers
April 16, 2013
Valuable book. I will need to read again to digest. An easy read but concepts deserve contemplation. One of the few books that actually provides a unique and authentic perspective. Not cliche or tired.
Profile Image for Audra Gayle.
236 reviews
March 3, 2020
I read this book about every other year. It's one of the best books on spirituality that I've come across. The chapter that I read over and over is on the paschal mystery. I need the reminder that our Christian life is one of constant transformation: death, resurrection, and new life.
Profile Image for John.
721 reviews46 followers
October 26, 2020
Ronald Rolheiser wants us to redefine spirituality. Most of us think of spirituality as something that happens in the locus of our mind through our beliefs, Rolheiser believes that spirituality is better understood as our desire, “an unquenchable fire, a restlessness, a longing, a disquiet, a hunger, a loneliness, a gnawing nostalgia…”

“Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire… Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest.” While Rolheiser’s language might feel raw, he is in a strong tradition going back to Augustine of those who believe that the seat of the Christian life is found in our affections rather than our minds. Rolheiser goes so far as to talk about spirituality as channeled eros. In Kierkegaard’s words, a saint is someone who “can will the one thing.”

Our tendency, Rolheiser says, is to will many things, fracturing the object of our desire among many things. Written in 1999, Rolheiser’s words are all the more important today, "What blocks faith is that myriad of innocent things within our ordinary, normal lives which precisely make our lives comfortable: our laziness, our self-indulgence, our ambition, our restlessness, our envy, our refusal to live in tension, our consumerism, our greed for things and experience, our need to have a certain lifestyle, our busyness and overextension, our perpetual tiredness, our obsession with celebrities, and our perpetual distraction with sports, sit-coms, and talk shows. These are the anti-mystical forces of our time.” When we are able to desire one thing, the only thing that can satisfy those desires, God himself, we have our eros satisfied.

After building this argument, Rolheiser spends the rest of the book talking about how we are do that. He walks through the church, the incarnation, working for justice, and even sexuality as means to the healthy and properly focused Christian life.

The modern reader might be surprised how significant a place Rolheiser gives the church in his exploration of spirituality. It is a refreshing counter-point to most writing on spirituality today. He says, “Spirituality, for a Christian, can never be an individualistic quest, the pursuit of God outside of community, family, and church.” And again, Without church, we have more private fantasy than real faith."

Rolheiser is an engaging writer. He’s honest, memorable, and pulls from a deep theological well. For instance, about sexuality he says, “[Sex] either gives life or it takes it away. It can never be casual, but is either a sacrament or a destructive act.”

That said, Rolheiser’s mysticism is problematic at times, he presses the church as the body of Christ to a place that most Protestants (myself included) would be uncomfortable with. For instance, “Jesus is referring to his body precisely insofar as it is not simply his sinless, glorified body in heaven, nor simply a sterilized, white communion wafer in a church. What we are being asked ‘to eat’ is that other part of his body, the community, the flawed body of believers here on earth.”

In addition, Rolheiser’s mystical leanings also tend to have him flattening or, at times, altogether eliminating the clear injunctions in the New Testament to proclaim our faith. He follows the (apocryphal) advice, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” Unhelpful and unbiblical advice, to be sure.

That said, I understood why a number of my friends are so influenced by Rolheiser. He has a unique and poetic way of clarifying challenging issues and sparking the affections of our hearts toward Christ and his church.

For more reviews see www.thebeehive.live

Profile Image for Allison.
433 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2020
I am not sure what to say about to this book. It had come highly recommended to me, and an author I follow quoted it. It is about a deeper, more authentic Christian Spirituality. The fact that it is written by a Catholic priest did not, on the face of things, put me off, as I am open to reading from a wide variety of Christian Traditions. It's greatest strength is in it's final two chapters, "A Spirituality of Sexuality," and "Sustaining Ourselves in the Spiritual Life."

Yet for all this book had going for it, there were entire chapters that, to me, made no sense and seemed to be tangential to the point. For example, in the chapter on Incarnation, the author refers to the time in Jesus' life when Mary of Bethany anoints the Lord's feet. In the Gospel of John, ch 12, Jesus says, "she has anointed Me in preparation for My death." However, the author interprets this as the Lord saying, "'Because of this, it will be easier to not give in to bitterness, easier to die. Knowing that I am so loved, it will be easier to leave this world without anger in My heart.' This is what it means to be anointed.'" pp.90-91.

This is completely untrue! To be *anointed* means to be set apart; literally, it means to be "smeared with oil" to be absolutely specific. So where the author came up with these ideas -- whether they are his own or maybe traditionally Catholic -- I do not know. But either way, he should have had some explanatory notes or something in his discussion, recognizing his readership is (from his own commentary) ecumenical and most likely somewhat familiar with both the Scriptural references and basic theological words.

Same as when he discusses the Eucharist. I appreciate that Roman Catholics believe the Eucharist to be the literal Body of the Lord Jesus Christ. At first, I was intrigued by the author's connection between the Lord's earthly body, the Eucharist Body, and the Church as the Body of Christ. This was not a connection I had fully formed previously. But again, the author strays from Scripture to fit his own ideas.
In seeking to emphasize the concepts above, he says, "the last thing Jesus asked of us before He ascended was that we go to all peoples and nations and preach His presence...The task is to radiate compassion and love of God, as manifest in Jesus, in our faces and our actions." P. 102.

This is NOT AT ALL what the Lord said! He told us to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and if the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you..." Matthew 28:16-19.

These are just two examples of several in the book where I felt the author *went off the rails* with ideas that had little to no basis in Christian Spirituality.

The Reader is all the poorer for it.
Profile Image for Adam.
310 reviews8 followers
June 2, 2020
Ronald Rolheiser, of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is a seminary president, teacher, and author who has written numerous books on spirituality. This book is written for any interested reader, Christian or otherwise, and is in an accessible and non-academic style. Rolheiser's premise is that spirituality is, at the very bottom, a primal desire. Every drive in human beings is a part of human spirituality. Sexuality is not excluded, nor is the environment, work, or any other facet of a person's existence. For at the core, spirituality is about the soul's longing after something, whether it be intimacy, community, purpose, or anything else. Thus spirituality is to be understood more broadly than it might be understood in popular conception.

There is much to be valued in the book. I appreciated his insights on the messiness of life, the need to be honest to God (God is saddened by our lying and not our weakness), the "mellowness" that flows from a deep relationship with God, and the tragic incompleteness of life. Rolheiser's writing is reminiscent of Nouwen's or Rohr's; he doesn't pretend to be the perfect Catholic with all the answers. He himself points out he is broken, but striving after God with all his heart. He would like his readers to do the same. Rolheiser is also a great writer. He's engaging, brutally honest, and has the uncanny ability to translate the most soaring spiritual insights of the masters of the past into contemporary, 21st century language. I'll conclude with a selection of my favorite quotes:

- "What demons torment us? The struggles in spirituality that are more unique to our age might be named as follows: Naivete about the nature of spiritual energy, pathological busyness, distraction, and restlessness, and a critical problem with balance, leading to a bevy of divorces" (22).

- "[T]o have a healthy spirituality, we must feed our souls in three ways: through prayer, both private and communal; through the practice of justice; and through having those things in our lives (good friendships, wine-drinking, creativity, and healthy leisure) that help keep the soul mellow and grateful" (67).

- "Without church, we have more private fantasy than real faith" (69).

- "[T]he primary sacrament of forgiveness is touching the hem of Jesus' garment, the Body of Christ. We have our sins forgiven in the same way as the woman in Mark's gospel stopped her hemorrhaging, through contact with Christ's body, that is, the Eucharist and the community... We have our sins forgiven by being in community with each other, at table with each other. Bluntly put, we will never go to hell as long as we are touching the community" (87).

- "In Jesus' birth, something fundamental has changed. God has given us the power, literally, to keep each other out of hell" (92).

- "Not being involved with church because of the church's faults is often a great rationalization. What is too painful to deal with is not the church's imperfection but my own fantasies about my own goodness, which, in the grind of real community, will become painfully obvious" (137).

- "A mature sexuality is when a person looks at what he or she has helped create, swells in a delight that breaks the prison of his or her selfishness, and feels as God feels when God looks at creation. For this reason sexuality lies at the center of the spiritual life" (192).

- "[Sex] either gives life or it takes it away. It can never be casual, but is either a sacrament or a destructive act" (199).

- "What blocks faith is that myriad of innocent things within our ordinary, normal lives which precisely make our lives comfortable: our laziness, our self-indulgence, our ambition, our restlessness, our envy, our refusal to live in tension, our consumerism, our greed for things and experience, our need to have a certain lifestyle, our busyness and overextension, our perpetual tiredness, our obsession with celebrities, and our perpetual distraction with sports, sit-coms, and talk shows. These are the antimystical forces of our time" (217).

"Only someone who can live with the tension of an unfinished symphony will truly respect others" (224).
Profile Image for Nathan.
305 reviews11 followers
January 2, 2022
I don't remember how I first heard of Rolheiser, but at some point a couple years ago I signed up for his bi-weekly spiritual reflection, which is consistently excellent. When I ran across Holy Longing at my local thrift store, I scooped it up.

Rolheiser is a systematic thinker and writer, and he begins his exploration of Christian spirituality with "desire." He writes, "Desire can show itself as aching pain or delicious hope. Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire." For me I was hooked from the beginning.

Holy Longing was written as an explanation to your kids on "why I still believe in God and why I still go to church - and that I can read myself on days when I am not so sure why." So, in a sense, it's apologetic. Rolheiser also takes seriously doubt in the midst of faith, which for me is a prerequisite.

Here's the Table of Contents:

Part One: The Situation
1 - What is Spirituality
2 - The Current Struggle with Christian Spirituality

Part Two: The Essential Outline for a Christian Spirituality
3 - The Nonnegotiable Essentials

Part Three: The Incarnation as the Basis for a Christian Spirituality
4 - Christ as the Basis for Christian Spirituality
5 - Consequences of the Incarnation for Spirituality

Part Four: Some Key Spiritualities Within a Spirituality
6 - A Spirituality of Ecclesiology
7 - A Spirituality of the Paschal Mystery
8 - A Spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking
9 - A Spirituality of Sexuality
10 - Sustaining Ourselves in the Spiritual Life

The first 5 chapters take up almost half the book, and I was pulled quickly along. The second half slowed and I put it down a couple of times before making my way through it.

Rolheiser, I assume, would be considered relatively conservative, particularly in regards to his views on the church and sexuality. But his approach was novel and full of insight. I also happened to finish it while also reading Berry's Jayber Crow, a novel about an elderly bachelor. As I finished Berry, Rolheiser ideas on desire and sexuality shown more brightly.

I wish I could spend another couple of hours reviewing the book, and writing quotes, etc. but it's late and I need to sleep. Perhaps another day.

I've already purchased his follow up book, Sacred Fire, and plan on reading it sometime in 2022.
Profile Image for LMS.
447 reviews33 followers
January 19, 2022
A complicated meal of a book, full of so many gems of quotes and insights, although there is plenty of moments I found disagreement with. I loved just how strong of an apologist he is for the necessity and beauty of the church community and the gathering of the church. Those chapters were incredibly convicting and encouraging.

On the other hand, I felt that his chapter on social justice was idealistic, and also naive (in a way that the Bible is not naive, though he claims to be laying out the Biblical view.) Also, his chapter on sexuality, while full of quotable lines and helpful concepts, was giving me flashbacks to Peter Kreeft’s “Love is Stronger than Death” where he extends some metaphors a little too far for comfort…

Although a Catholic, he is an evenly ecumenical writer, and leaves the door open for all sorts of religious people to read his book without offense. That’s the downfall of the book as a serious theological work – he has a light hand in places where Scripture does not. But there’s plenty to be gleaned from it despite that. As an apologetics book, one that draws on an anthropological basis for spirituality, and one that could be read by a wide variety of people, opening the door for more serious conversations down the road - this is a great book. Read it with your eyes open - and a highlighter in your hand.

One of my favorite quotes from the book, for good measure:

“In essence, Jesus is saying: You cannot deal with a perfect, all-loving, all-forgiving, all-understanding God in heaven, if you cannot deal with a less-than-perfect, less-than-forgiving, and less-than-understanding community here on earth. You cannot pretend to be dealing with an invisible God if you refuse to deal with a visible family. Teaching this truth can ruin one’s popularity in a hurry. People then found it to be “intolerable language” and it meets with the same resistance today.”
Profile Image for Larry Wood.
64 reviews
March 30, 2019
Plenty of inspiring insights into aspects of Christian spirituality that we rarely visualize so clearly. Fr. Rolheiser gives innumerable concrete examples of the points that he is making. One example: the difference between praying in a merely theistic way and praying in a decidedly Christian, incarnational way.
"...if my mother is sick, and I pray that she gets better, but do not drive her to see the doctor, I have prayed as a theist, not as a Christian. I have not given any incarnational flesh, skin, to my prayer."
If I see a colleague or a friend who is depressed and pray for her, but do not speak to her, then I am praying like a theist, not as a Christian.....Our prayer needs our flesh to back it up." (pg.84)
Rolheiser implores us not to take the Incarnation lightly, as meaning that God became man, stayed here for 33 years, and then left us with the Holy Spirit. A kind of 33 year experiment. He maintains "The incarnation is still going on and is just as real and as radically physical as when Jesus of Nazareth, in the flesh, walked the dirt roads of Palestine." It continues in the body of believers. The phrase "We are the Body of Christ" is not an exaggeration, nor a metaphor for Rolheiser. He finds this the core of Christian spirituality. "We have to keep God present in the world in the same way as Jesus did." (pg.80)
Profile Image for Craig Bergland.
335 reviews8 followers
February 2, 2020
I really wanted to like this book. I really wanted to like Fr. Rolheiser, so much so that I tried to get around his sing-song voice by reading this book for the second time and hoping for different results.

Did you ever go talk to a salesman at a small used car lot? If you have, you may well have gotten the feeling that the salesman would say whatever he had to in order to sell you even the worst junker on the lot. That's the feeling I get when the author tries to convince me that it's so important to be part of a church community that I should even tolerate mistreatment because I will learn something from it.

Unfortunately, what he's doing, whether he realizes it or not, is called gaslighting. It's one of the very many legitimate reasons people are walking away from institutional religion. Also, his claim that Jesus wanted people to be in a church community is an anachronism because when Jesus was alive the church as we know it didn't exist yet. Christianity didn't exist yet.

There is a point at which a sales job crosses over and becomes something lacking in integrity. You can find it in this book.
Profile Image for Garrett Bagwell.
72 reviews
January 30, 2023
While I don’t agree with all of Rolheiser’s theological points—particularly his soteriology—and at times, the author’s personal denominational biases make the work less than ecumenical, this is a book that ought to be on every Christian’s shelf.

What sets Rolheiser’s book apart is that he is concerned with the base desires and yearnings that undergird all quests for spiritual formation.

Rolheiser first convinces his readers that all are on a spiritual journey. That spirituality isn’t reserved only for the pious or those cloistered in the Ivory Tower. Rather, spirituality is inherently earthy, tangible, guttural. Perhaps the greatest section of this book deals with the full implications of the Incarnation on a Christian spirituality. This book brings the spiritual journey out of the clouds and onto the ground of every day life.
Profile Image for Jackie St Hilaire.
126 reviews11 followers
April 28, 2018
When all is said and done: "We come from God, we return to God".

But it's the years in between that make us grow, sometimes it is forced growth and other times we choose. In the last part of life is when most of the choices have to be made because if we haven't figured it out yet, we could severally damage our inner soul. Better to be prepared.

Ron Rohlheiser in his book "Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality" gives us hope that all is not lost, that maybe, just maybe, we have made a few wrong turns on our journey. Forgiving ourselves and moving on can be a long process. You can take as long as you want but you might go deeper and deeper into the abyss.

Little steps, don't get ahead of God. Be patient , we have all eternity.
127 reviews
December 3, 2019
There are certain books in life that are liminal books- threshold books. When read, they have the mystical effect of helping you cross a threshold in your life; you manage to get unstuck and move several steps forward. And that is their power because life is meant to have a forward moving effect. Rolheiser’s chapters on the Incarnation, Ecclesiology and specifically the Pascal Mystery are brilliantly powerful and, if seriously pondered upon, life changing in their implications.
However, having said that, Rolheiser and I fought all the way from the first chapter to the last on his inclusive language concerning God, creative energies and so much more. Too much.’You helped me cross the threshold, Ronald, but I can only go so far with you! ‘
Profile Image for Jodie Pine.
232 reviews5 followers
October 26, 2019
"Spirituality is more about whether or not we can sleep at night than about whether or not we go to church. It is about being integrated or falling apart, about being within community or being lonely, about being in harmony with Mother Earth or being alienated from her. Irrespective of whether or not we let ourselves be consciously shaped by any explicit religious idea, we act in ways that leave us healthy or unhealthy, loving or bitter. What shapes our actions is our spirituality."

Some very interesting ideas on incarnation that I had not heard before. And a great Lord's Prayer for Justice. Thought-provoking.
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